Voters to get say on stadium funding

Friday, August 20, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:05 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

CLAYTON — St. Louis County voters will decide in November a ballot proposal designed to prohibit the county from helping to fund the new downtown ballpark for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Stadium opponents turned in enough signatures to guarantee a charter amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot aimed at preventing the county from spending public money on the new Busch Stadium, under construction adjacent to the current ballpark and scheduled to open in 2006. Election officials certified the validity of the signatures on Wednesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The amendment would call into question the county’s ability to pay off $46 million in bonds it sold in December to help pay for the stadium. The St. Louis County Council unanimously approved the issuance of bonds.

The $387 million stadium is being built through a combination of public and private funding, including bonds and tax relief from the state, St. Louis city and St. Louis County.

Lawyers for the county don’t think the amendment, even if passed, will affect the bond payments. But Fred Lindecke, who led the drive to get the measure on the ballot, said that if it passes, the county will be unable to pay principal and interest on the bonds without approval from voters.

Lindecke said if voters approve the measure, they will save $110 million in principal and interest. That money “can be spent on legitimate public services, instead of being wasted on subsidizing the millionaire owners of the Cardinals,” he said.

Mac Scott, a spokesman for County Executive Charlie Dooley, said he believes the majority of county voters approved of spending public money on the stadium.

Council Councilman Skip Mange said he had been repeatedly assured by county lawyers, as well as bond and tax attorneys, that if the amendment is approved, it will affect public funding of future stadiums but not of the Cardinals’ stadium.

He said money to repay the bonds is coming from a tax collected only from guests of hotels and motels. Voters approved that tax in 1990.

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